Trinity College

Orthodox Eucharistic Liturgies and Liturgical Theology

Course Code: 
Last Offered: 
Winter/Spring 2022
Next Offered: 
Winter/Spring 2025

This course includes reading, basic knowledge and pastoral practice of the core liturgical rites for the Divine Eucharist in the Byzantine (Orthodox and Eastern Catholic) churches, and also includes an overview of the liturgical history of the evolution of those rites. Guest lectures will also cover the Eucharistic liturgies of the Oriental Orthodox churches, specifically the Coptic and Ethiopian rites.

The course’s aim includes not only historical knowledge or simple encounter with these texts and rubrics, but also theological grasp of the significance, the reasons, the deep exegetical meanings, and also the ‘poetics’, which underlie the present form and practice of Eucharistic rites. In the Orthodox Way, in Liturgy, the Orthodox faithful discover the reality of church as community and the final reality of theosis, the way toward God.

This course offers a first introduction to Fr Alexander Schmemann’s concept of liturgical theology; but it is also necessary to ground Schmemann’s modern contribution in historical roots, viz., the patristic ‘mystagogical’ writings about the Liturgy from the 2nd-14th centuries.

By the end of this course students should know reasonably well the Liturgies of St John Chrysostom and St Basil the Great, and the Presanctified Liturgy, and they should have a reasonable grasp of how these liturgies came to have their present structure. Students will need to have attended at least two celebrations of the Divine Liturgy, because awareness of liturgical prayer requires experiential wholeness – sound, sight, smell, words, light and dark, movement in the worship space, and human company.

One of the key themes of the course is the dynamic quality of liturgical form and action, and its responsiveness to social and pastoral context. It is to this end that elements of the historical development of Orthodox liturgical worship will be an important aspect of the course, together with the theological, social, and ecclesiological issues which contextualise that historical development. Modern problematics in liturgical practice and the discussion of liturgical reform and renewal will also be engaged in this context.

There will be some treatment of the development of church architecture as ‘worship space’, but this is covered more fully in the Orthodox Iconology: Iconography in a Worship Context and Proclaiming the Kingdom: Orthodox Homiletics and Liturgical Celebration courses. Also the cycles of the daily liturgical offices and church year are introduced, but these are the main subject of the Sanctification of Time: Orthodox Liturgy of the Hours and Liturgical Year course. Further treatment of the holy mysteries (sacraments) of the Orthodox tradition is the subject of the Sanctification of Life: The Orthodox Mysteries course.

There are no prerequisites for this course, though students who take this course should have a good grounding in both Old and New Testament. Students without such a background should speak to the instructor who will provide some remedial reading prior to beginning the course.

Some familiarity with Greek (New Testament or Patristic) will be helpful for in-depth study of the liturgical texts and patristic commentaries, though all texts will be studied in English translation.